UK Government announces legalisation of medicinal cannabis

From 1st November 2018, patients in the United Kingdom (UK) can be prescribed medicinal cannabis by specialist doctors. These specialist doctors can legally issue prescriptions for cannabis-based medicines when they agree that their patients could benefit from this treatment. The law change has come after the Home Secretary listened to concerns from parents of children with conditions such as severe epilepsy.

Back in summer 2018, the Home Secretary called for an urgent review of cannabis-based medicinal products and accepted recommendations from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) and the UK’s Chief Medical Advisor. The new law does not limit the types of conditions that can be considered for treatment and it will no longer be a requirement from doctors to seek approval from an expert panel to enable patients to access the medicines.

Specialist doctors focus on one field of medicines such as neurology or paediatrics, and are included on the General Medical Council’s specialist register. Patients will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and decisions on prescribing cannabis-based products for medicinal use will only be when the patient has an unmet special clinical need that cannot be met by licensed products.

Ahead of the law change, the Royal College of Physicians, National Health Service (NHS) England and the British Paediatric Neurology Association will provide clinical advice to doctors. Also, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has been commissioned to develop more detailed guidelines for clinicians.

The Home Secretary would like to make it clear that the legalisation of medicinal cannabis does not pave the way for legalising cannabis for recreational use. Thus, penalties for unauthorised supply and possession remain in place.

To read more about the legalisation of medicinal cannabis in the UK, please click here.